asked the Postmaster-General how many people are employed by his Department on detailed calculations as to the amount of payment to be made to the nationalised air corporations for the carrying of airmail.
Thirteen officers are employed wholly or partly on this work.
Does not the Postmaster-General consider that this work is unnecessary, in view of the fact that if there were some simple basis of calculation no officers would be required at all. These officers could be used on more useful work, which would be one way in which unnecessary expenditure could be avoided?
I do not think the matter is quite as simple as that.
Does not my right hon. Friend know that the Opposition were demanding separate trading accounts for each division of the Overseas Airways Corporation, and can he tell the hon. Member opposite and the rest of us how they could possibly get that if the suggestion of the hon. Member were adopted?
Sub-Post Offices, Somerset
asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that sub-post offices at Bradford on Tone and Langford Budville, Somerset, have been closed owning to staffing difficulties; and what steps he proposes to take to provide postal facilities in these villages.
Yes, Sir. Every effort has been and will continue to be made to reopen these offices at the earliest possible moment. Unfortunately, candidates for the vacant sub-postmasterships are not immediately forthcoming. For the time being, a postal clerk is attending in each village for two hours on Friday afternoons to pay pensions and transact other Post Office business.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the fundamental cause of difficulties of this kind is the great improvement in the wages and living conditions of other rural workers which has been recently brought about, and that this condition may therefore be permanent? Cannot he consider some other means of supplying these small villages with postal facilities by other means, such as travelling post offices?
These people have had a rise within the last two years. I should say that the biggest difficulty is the question of getting suitable places.
On a point of Order. May I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that my borough has an excellent motto—"More light"?
Pensions Payments, East Bridgford
asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that on several occasions old age pensioners have been unable to draw their weekly money at the Post Office, East Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, owing to the postmaster having insufficient funds; and if he will take steps to remedy this state of affairs.
I am informed that there is no recollection of any occasion when the funds available at the office named have been insufficient to meet the requirements of all old age pensioners; but there was a recent occasion, when the funds in hand consisted only of silver, when an agent of an old age pensioner refused to accept silver and demanded bank notes. The applicant was informed that bank notes would undoubtedly be available later in the day if she was not prepared to accept silver. Steps have been taken in an endeavour to ensure that bank notes as well as silver will form part of the funds in hand at this Post Office on all future occasions.
I am sure there is some substance in this complaint, and I think it applies to many sub-post offices, but will the right hon. Gentleman look at it and see that postmasters, on whom he has placed so many responsibilities, are in a position to carry them out?
I am always willing to look at any problem brought to my notice.
Does not my right hon. Friend think that the Opposition ought to join with us in welcoming this confidence in the £1 note?
Will my right hon. Friend consider, once again, the possibility of providing villages with mobile post offices?
That is one of the questions which is being considered, but I do not know whether it will provide a solution.
Telephone Exchange, Chiswick
asked the Postmaster-General what progress has been made during the past six months with plans to provide Chiswick with an automatic telephone exchange; and when he expects that exchange to be in operation.
Installation of the automatic equipment for the new Chiswick Exchange is to start early next month, and the Exchange should be ready for service towards the end of 1950.
Can my right hon. Friend say why a whole lot of additional floors are being added to this building? Is it because the present plan is bigger than was originally envisaged?
I should want notice of that question.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the insistence of his hon. Friend will not procure for Brentford and Chiswick priority over much more important places which still lack an automatic exchange?
On a point of Order. Is it in Order, Mr. Speaker, for the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) to suggest that any borough is more important than Brentford and Chiswick?
asked the Postmaster-General when he will provide additional post offices or sub-offices in Timperley, Cheshire.
I am not aware that the facilities available in Timperley for the transaction of Post Office counter business are insufficient, but I shall be happy to review the position if the hon. Member will let me have particulars of any deficiency.
asked the Postmaster-General whether he is now in a position to announce an improvement in the postal services between Manchester and London.
Yes, Sir. I am pleased to be able to announce that, with the co-operation of British Railways, arrangements have been made whereby normally, the proceeds of the final collection from the street posting boxes in Manchester—6–6.30 p.m.—should secure first delivery throughout London on the following weekday and vice versa. The corresponding posting times at Manchester head post office and at London head district post offices are 8.15 p.m. and 8.0 p.m. respectively.
Does the Minister realise that this small improvement, belated though it is, will cause much satisfaction in Manchester?